Daughter of Mirkwood

Chapter 9

Revelations and Explanations

Before she knew it, Aeslin had reached Galadriel’s sitting room. She knew she probably shouldn’t barge in without invitation, but her mind was in turmoil, to say nothing of her heart.

She flew through the door, coming to a sudden halt just past the entrance. Galadriel sat with a small book in her hand, while Celeborn sat off to the side, obviously seeing to correspondence.

“My Lady, I am in need of your counsel.” She was out of breath, though her heart was pounding for a far different reason. Celeborn looked up, concern written upon his face at her sudden appearance. Galadriel, on the other hand, looked completely nonplussed. In fact, she almost appeared to have been expecting Aeslin to come running in.

Closing her book with care, she stood, giving her husband a reassuring glance before walking forward and guiding Aeslin out of the room. The two began to walk, Galadriel leading the way, although Aeslin suspected there was no real destination in mind. The younger elf held her tongue, afraid of what she might blurt out on impulse.

“You have been speaking with Orophin,” the Lady said mildly, as though she were remarking upon something as apparent as the weather. Aeslin drew a shaky breath. She was well used to the Lady’s near omnipotence by now, but it still always took her off guard.

“Yes, I have. He said some—some very curious things.”

“Curious, how so?” Aeslin looked up at the Lady beside her. Galadriel wore a serene expression, though the faint smile on her lips hinted at something akin to amusement. The young healer knew the Lady was perfectly aware of what Orophin had said, but was waiting for Aeslin to recount it anyway.

“He said Haldir is falling in love with me.”

“Oh?” Galadriel’s tone was one of feigned surprise, causing Aeslin to frown in exasperation. “Was that all?”

“No,” Aeslin admitted after a moment, “he also said I was falling in love Haldir myself.” Galadriel looked pleased.

“And that frightens you.” It was a statement of fact, one that Aeslin was hard pressed to deny. Tentatively she nodded, once again afraid of what might pass her lips were she to open them. Galadriel lifted the book in her hands, seeming to examine the binding as they walked.

“That is one thing poems of love and songs of romance fail to say.” She stopped, turning to face the young elf beside her. Aeslin watched her in fascination. “Falling in love is frightening. It is new and different, a startling feeling to encounter for the first time. Especially for our race, for we love deeply. But it is also wonderful. Embrace it, Aeslin; do not fear love when you meet it, for meet it you will.” With a reassuring smile, Galadriel touched Aeslin’s face before turning and walking back the way they had come.

Aeslin on the other had, stood where they stopped for several moments longer. Eventually though, she too started walking again, and she didn’t stop for a long time. Her thoughts were full of Orophin’s words and Galadriel’s. One thing was clear, though; that her thoughts kept returning Haldir meant something. She just needed to see him again to find out what.

Several months passed, and Aeslin still had not seen Haldir, much less had a chance to speak with him. Her time was spent tending to her duties as a healer and keeping company with Arwen and, on occasion, Galadriel. She didn’t speak of Haldir, or of her feelings for him. She kept that to herself, safely hidden away until she could discover the truth of the matter. Thankfully, she had learned patience long ago, though the limits to that patience were being severely tested.

It was only when she began to wonder he was ever going to return from the border that she finally saw him again. Her frustration beginning to get the better of her, she had taken to long walks to try and clear her mind, wandering through Lorien itself, beyond the City of Trees. It was during one of these walks that she found her way to the banks of the Silverlode River. Pleasantly surprised to have come across the River, she settled herself on the bank; content to listen to the gentle song of the water and the pleasing harmony of the trees joining in. It was peaceful there. Elves floated on the river in beautifully crafted boats, laughing and singing along with the melodies of the forest.

She stayed there for the rest of the day; watching, listening, trying not to think of much of anything. She was, for once, quite content to do nothing but revel in the forest around her, bolstered by the enduring strength of Golden Wood. Dusk came, and, not long after, night fell. Overhead the Moon rose, and the first of the evening stars began to appear. The boats on the river became fewer, but those that remained glowed in the moonlight, flickering candles appearing on their prows.

“I saw a star rise high in the /Evening sky, /It hung like a jewel, /Softly shining.“* Aeslin was too at peace to be startled, but smiled instead as the velvet voice seemed to melt out of the darkness. Turning she saw Haldir standing in the shadow of the trees, looking up at the sky.

“And there I thought you did not approve of such frivolity,” she said playfully, earning a small smile from the Marchwarden. “We need to stop meeting like this, with you sneaking up on me.” His face once again grew serious as his gaze came to rest on her. She gestured beside her, “Will you not come sit?”

“I do not think it wise.” Aeslin frowned at his tone, turning back to face the river.

“Oh? Why would that be?”

“We are very different.” She sensed his answer referred to more than just her question. Her chest tightened, making speech difficult.

“Is that so bad?” When he didn’t answer, she turned to look at him again. Still, he stood leaning against one of the trees lining the riverbank. “Surely we are not so different as you think.” He sighed, his serious expression turning to one she couldn’t quite read.

“I am not so sure of that.” He was starting to make her nervous with his vague answers. Standing, she pushed those nerves aside and all but marched over to him, coming to stand so close to him they almost touched. She saw the corner of his mouth twitch, but he did not move otherwise.

“Try me,” she said simply. He stared down at her, his blue eyes piercing in the dim light.

“For one, you are a Sindarin of Mirkwood, and I a Silvan of Lothlorien. I am a Warrior, you a Healer. That alone is difference enough.” Aeslin’s eyes widened with incredulity. She pointedly chose to ignore his mention of her heritage and his.

“Truly, that is your answer? For it seems complimentary to me. If you are injured in battle, I shall be able to heal you, and you can protect me, should I need it. Besides, I have a measure of warrior blood in me. Don’t forget, I did save your life once.” He fought the hint of a smile growing on his face.

“You are still very young.” She scoffed, but he continued. “While I was old even before you were even born.” She laughed quietly, suddenly feeling a new, almost reckless confidence that surprised her.

“We are of a race of immortals. Age is of little consequence to us. We will all be old before long.” In the moonlight, she was so fair that she seemed to glow. Haldir was still for a long time, looking down at her delicate features, which were suddenly suffused with assurance and tenderness. He had been driven to distraction by the memory of her for a great many nights now. Every time he closed his eyes he recalled the wondering expression on her face the morning after Haerion’s death. She had been bathed in sunlight then.

“I fear this, where letting myself care for you might lead.” He was hesitant to speak, barely audible amid the sounds of the forest. He feared her reaction, and she could see it in his eyes.

“I was told once that to fall in love is frightening, but one must accept it, for the reward is far beyond wonderful” Her voice had become soft, gentle even.

“Aeslin…” Her gaze didn’t waver as he whispered her name. Slowly, his hand came up to trace her cheek, his fingers resting on her skin.

“You don’t seem convinced by these differences you speak of.” She looked up at him with such conviction, her voice breathless. He shook his head, slowly.

“Perhaps you are a great deal wiser than I am.” She laughed again.

“Perhaps.” The conviction in her eyes slowly turned to wonder and mirth. “At the very least, The Lady is a great deal wiser than the both of us.” This time it was Haldir’s turn to laugh.

“Of that there is no doubt.”

“Are you going to kiss me now?” In lieu of words, he leaned in instead, pressing his lips to hers. When he pulled away, she smiled, before reaching up to trace her own fingers across his features. With a sparkle in her eye, she pulled him down for another.

He escorted her home that night, leaving her at her flet with another tender embrace, lingering to kiss her one last time before retreating to his own quarters. Aeslin positively glowed with his attention, watching him go with delight shining in her eyes. Galadriel had been right on all counts, and Aeslin’s fear had long since vanished, replaced instead with a growing elation that she fostered deep in her heart.

Haldir also, began to feel a blossoming of some stronger emotion. He was lighthearted for the first time in many years, hope shining in his eyes. Still, his habits ran deep, and it was not long before his usual grave mask was fixed firmly in place, though he held his feelings for Aeslin close, hiding them from others, keeping them safe and protected. It was obvious, though, that something in him had changed, something that his brothers noticed almost immediately. Orophin beamed when he noticed, a pleased smile on his face that Haldir would have been tempted to wipe off had it not been for his good mood. Rumil had a little more tact, and kept his satisfaction at his brother’s good fortune to himself.

The next day, and the day after, and for many more that followed, Haldir spent his free time with Aeslin, joining her on her long walks or on her wanderings in search of medicinal plants. In wasn’t long before whispers were flying through Caras Galadhon saying that Lorien’s reclusive Marchwarden had finally fallen in love. Indeed, the idea inspired a great deal of curiosity, as he was the last of his brothers to do so despite being the eldest, for both of his brothers had married long ago.

However, their long days wandering beneath the bowers of The City of Trees could not last forever, and soon Haldir was expected to resume his duties on the borders of Lorien. It would be a further three months at least before he returned from his rotation.

On the last night before returning to the borders, he sat with Aeslin in one of the many secluded groves of the City. In the centre of the grove was a fountain, its spouts of water glistening in the faint light coming from the City proper. Other than the gentle fall of water, it was quiet. Aeslin sat nestled against Haldir, watching the water shimmer and dance while he held her close. The Marchwarden also watched the water, though he was deep in thought.

Eventually, Aeslin sighed, knowing she could not put off the inevitable. As she pulled away, Haldir watched her with questioning eyes, keeping hold on her hand as she stood. She turned back to face him, first looking to their entwined fingers, a trace of sadness written on her face.

“The hour grows late, and you need to rest before you leave tomorrow.” A flicker of disappointment appeared in his eyes, but Haldir smiled, pulling Aeslin to sit on his lap, wrapping his arms around her waist. She protested for a moment, though she did not complain, eventually leaning forward to place a soft kiss on his lips.

“It is not so late yet.” He whispered, reaching up to stroke her cheek. She sighed, leaning against him. It was several more long moments before he spoke again.

“Whose blessing must I ask to marry you, Aeslin of Mirkwood?” She straightened abruptly, startled by his question. He held her gaze, the sincerity of his query causing her heart to pound. A smile came to her face.

“Truly?” He nodded, returning her smile before growing serious again.

“Yes. I wish to be yours,” he murmured. She leaned forward again, giving him a long, lingering kiss. He laughed when they parted. “You haven’t answered my question. Is there someone I should ask to marry you?” She grew thoughtful for a moment, tracing Haldir’s jaw and pointed ear with gentle fingers. Sadness flickered in her eyes, but was soon replaced with the love that Haldir was becoming accustomed to seeing there.

“I am ward to Lord Elrond, and he has become more of a father to me than a mentor and I love him thus. It is he you should ask.”

“What of your parents?” The sadness returned, accompanied with a flash of distaste.

“My Mother is dead, and my Father sent me away, for he saw me as a burden. Because of him I have not seen the land of my birth in over three centuries. I will not give him power over this, over our love.” Her voice was bitter, but when she continued her happiness had returned. “But Lorien is my home now. No one sees me as a burden here. In Lorien I found you, Haldir of the Golden Wood.” She smiled to herself. Haldir though, sensed that the bitterness he’d heard in her voice ran deep, and an ache formed in his heart. They had never truly spoken of her family, as she always managed to deflect or steer the conversation elsewhere. This was the first he’d heard for certain that her mother was dead; he had even wondered for a time if both her parents were gone. He had suspected she harbored grief at the thought of them, but this was far more than he had ever really considered.

“I cannot believe your Father could see you as a burden.” Her smile vanished to be replaced with a look of detachment as he probed further, determined not to let her shrug off speaking of them this time. “There must be more to it than that, for how could anyone want to send you away.” She heard his concern, and his genuine wish to understand, but her exile from Mirkwood was still a sore spot for her. Pulling away she stood again, walking closer to the fountain. Haldir stood, watching her with wary eyes. Eventually she sat on the stone ledge, letting her fingers dip in the cool water.

“He did. He played on my desire to become a healer, finding an excuse to be rid of me. I was young…so young.” Grief choked her for an instant, but she fought it back with her resentment. Haldir came to sit beside her, but she refused to look at him, afraid of the reaction she’d see. He had opened the floodgates, though, and she found that she could not stop.

“He believed me too young—too weak—to live amid the Forests of Mirkwood, so he sent me to Rivendell under the pretense that I learn from the best Healer Middle Earth had to offer. My brother fought this, I know in my heart he did not wish to see me go. I lived in Rivendell for well over two centuries, near three, learning what I could, until there was no more Elrond could teach me. Then it came out that, even once I completed my studies, my Father did not wish me to return.” Punctuating her last, anguished words, she slapped her hand through the water, watching the splash arc through the air before falling back among the Fountain’s spurts. Haldir could feel the pain bleeding from her as she sat, curling into herself, feeling his own temper stir at his newly beloved’s despair. He reached out, taking her hand from where it clutched the hard edge of the fountain. She looked up at him, desperation in her eyes.

“I fear being left alone again, abandoned. I never want to feel that emptiness again.” Tears shimmered in her eyes as she spoke, her voice hitching with sadness. He pulled her into his arms.

“You won’t be. I won’t leave you, I would never send you away as he did. But you are still loved, Aeslin; by Elrond, his children, The Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn, Orophin and Lostariel … they all love you, and so do I.” he laid a kiss on her brow, inhaling her sweet scent before speaking again. “You will never be truly alone again. When I return from this rotation, we shall travel to Rivendell. It would seem I have business with Lord Elrond.” Aeslin nestled closer, knowing in her heart that he meant every word.

The next morning, Aeslin woke early. In a flash, she had prepared herself for the day and all but flew down to the city entrance. As she expected, the new rotation of border-guards was preparing to depart to relieve their fellows. Haldir stood at the head of the group, speaking it several of his men. Upon seeing Aeslin approach though, he excused himself, coming to meet her before she had even spotted him. Sedately, he kissed her cheek, careful not to overstep the lines of politeness. His eyes, however, told a different tale, for they had lit up as soon as he saw her.

“I have made the preparations. When I return, we shall travel to Imladris.” She smiled, looking down at the hands that clasped hers.

“Go then. I’ll be here when you return. You have my love, Haldir.” On impulse, all sense of decorum forgotten, Haldir swept her into one last kiss. He knew he was not likely to hear the end of it, but he did not care. She was worth it. Besides, he had every intention of pledging himself to her, so there was little to hold him back so far as he was concerned.

After one last farewell, he departed, pointedly ignoring the looks of amusement on his brothers’ faces. Aeslin couldn’t help but smile when Orophin turned her way, dipping his head in what only could be described as thanks. Lostariel, having already farewelled her husband, came to stand beside the young healer as the Marchwarden and his border-guards moved out.

“At last,” was all she said, watching her husband until he was out of sight. Aeslin turned to her, a faint look of confusion on her face. Glimpsing the expression out of the corner of her eye, Lostariel continued, a look of amusement akin to her husband’s on her face.

“At last, someone has melted our dear Marchwarden’s heart of stone.” Aeslin made an exasperated sound of protest at the comment, but her friend cut her off. “I only mean that we have all waited a long time for him to find someone to love. I’m very happy for you, Aeslin.” The healer thanked her friend before departing from the City’s entrance herself.

By evening, the glow of Haldir’s promise was beginning to dim as Aeslin faced being parted from him for the next several months. But, she knew life had to go on, and that before she knew it, he would return. Besides, she was going to have to get used to it; after all, his rotations on the border were going to be a constant in her life once she married him.

She made her way up to Galadriel’s sitting room where she was to spend the evening with the Lady and Arwen. Upon entering the room, she was beset upon by Arwen, who enfolded her in a joyful hug. Behind her, Galadriel stood, her own pleased smile lighting her features. Celeborn sat nearby, mirroring his wife’s satisfaction, though his was a little more reserved. Aeslin was in a state of surprise having not expected Arwen’s greeting.

“Congratulations, Aeslin. I knew you would not regret coming to Lorien.”

“Indeed.” The healer was still a little disoriented, and found herself unable to put more than a word or two together. Once Arwen retreated, Galadriel stepped forward, taking Aeslin’s face in her hands.

“You will be very happy, child.” The younger elf smiled, regaining control of herself.

“Thank you, My Lady, for your advice.” Galadriel laughed, sounding as melodious as a song as she withdrew her hands.

“Love is precious, Aeslin, daughter of Thranduil.” Her face grew serious, “especially in the dark days ahead.” Aeslin frowned, but Galadriel didn’t elaborate, the smile returning to her face.

“You need not worry about that now, my dear Aeslin.” Celeborn rose from his seat, coming to stand next to his wife. They exchanged a long look, during which a great many things seemed to pass. Arwen took little notice, instead taking Aeslin’s hand and pulling her away.

“You must tell me everything! I am dying to know!”

*(Translated) From the lyrics of “Twilight and Shadow,” from the Soundtrack of "The Return of the King"

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